Orff's ever-popular Carmina Burana is a prime candidate
for transcription for concert bands, brass bands and brass ensembles.
The strings do not add all that much to the original score,
which is driven by percussion and, of course, voices. Give
the vocal parts to the brass and or winds, and Orff's driving
rhythms and colourful tunes should do the rest.
does not work here, though. John Krance's transcription is
not “exhilarating”, as the back of the CD case suggests, but
dull and unimaginative. He also makes some strange track choices.
Where is Estuans interius? Surely this angry baritone
solo is crying out to be allocated to trombone or tuba? And
what of the wonderfully bizarre Olim lacus colueram,
the lament of the roasting swan? No saxophone or tenor horn
to paint that picture? By contrast, In trutina and
Ave formosissima, though prettily played, seem surplus to
requirements. Or perhaps I was just fed up by the time they
Peabody Band does not help matters. Although their playing
is never less than good, there is a slight reticence to their
performance and an insistence on keeping time over emphasising
the drama of the music. Ecce gratum, usually delightful
and rhythmically exciting, is here messy and boring. Ensemble
is also flawed elsewhere. There are a couple of moments of
precarious ensemble in Tanz: Uf dem anger and a nasty
trumpet fluff in Were diu werlt alle min. The opening
and closing tracks though portentous, lack some of the necessary
weight. In short, if you buy this disc for Carmina Burana,
you will be disappointed.
if you do not buy this disc at all, you will be missing out.
The other two works on the programme come off much better and
are well worth hearing.
serenade is simply delightful, and the Peabody winds – no brass
or percussion here – play with a winning lightness of touch.
The piece won its composer the Paderewski Prize for th best
chamber work by an American in 1901, and it is easy to hear
why. It is tuneful without being facile, rhythmically alive,
and boasts bright fugal finale. The cor anglais solo in the
slow movement is also lovely in a gentle, bucolic way.
final piece on the disc, Reed's La Fiesta Mexicana, is
subtitled “A Mexican Folk Song Symphony for Concert Band”.
More than that, it is a three movement tone poem, in the Respighi
mode, which depicts a religious festival in Mexico dedicated
to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The first movement is a prelude
and Aztec dance. It begins with the pealing of church bells
before and fireworks from the snare. The brass take up a fanfare
that could come from Miklós Rózsa score for Ben Hur.
Reed's use of lower woodwind is especially colourful, as he
paints a grand parade before the folksong for the Aztec dance
begins. The second movement depicts the Mass, invoked again
by the tolling of bells. This movement is contemplative and
builds in grandeur from chant-like beginnings. The final movement,
Carnival, brings the return of the festival atmosphere
in an all-out party that sounds like a soft-edged folksy counterpart
to the rabble-rousing conclusion to Respighi's Feste Romane.
Copland and, ever so subtly, Ives hover in the background.
This is colourful and joyous music, and well played too.